Help My Kids Still Aren’t Catholic!!

An earlier post this week with a similar title evoked the most passionate comments I’ve had on a post for a long time. I suggested that one of the reasons why Catholic kids leave the church is that our catechism and worship styles and preaching for the past fifty years did not prepare them for the rigors and demands of a fully Catholic life. I would like to add to that.

There is another huge contributing factors to the hemorrhage from the Catholic Church.It is indifferentism, and the indifferentism has three aspects. First is the aspect that it doesn’t really matter what church you go to. You wouldn’t believe the number of potential convert clergy who are told by a Catholic priest to stay where they are in the Protestant denomination and “work for church unity.”

The first aspect of indifferentism is the idea that all the Christian denominations–for that matter all the different religions–are pretty much the same. You know the schtick–”We are all following different paths up the same mountain. You choose your path I choose mine.” The unique claims to Catholic truth have been watered down or denied completely. So if we have been telling our kids for the last fifty years that all the other Christian denominations are pretty much the same we should be surprised when they quite happily marry a Methodist or tootle off to the community church or join the Episcopalians?

Faithful parents will protest, “But we never taught our kids that! We sent them to Catholic school.” You don’t get it. They were taught indifferentism in their Catholic school. They picked it up at that CCD class you thought was okay. They were fed it at that Catholic high school you thought was just fine. The bishop thought that was the way forward. They heard it at their confirmation class. The priests learned it at seminary from modernist professors. To say that other Christians were in error was “judgmental” and  “unloving”, “narrow minded”, “rigid” etc.

Indifferentism also applies in a second way: we became indifferent to the importance of doctrine. Doctrine didn’t matter. Experience was everything. Warm, fuzzy experience. In fact, not only did doctrine not matter, but it was considered divisive. All Christians were coming together, and this wonderful unity would be accelerated as we left all those dull, old arguments about doctrine behind us. As it was expressed by an exasperated Methodist when I, as an Anglican priest, announced my intention to resign my ministry and become a Catholic, “Isn’t all that matters how much we love Jesus?!” This is Rodney King theology” “Can’t we all just get along?”

If we were taught to be indifferent about doctrine, then the logical conclusion is that doctrine doesn’t matter, and if doctrine doesn’t matter then it doesn’t really matter what you believe, and if it doesn’t really matter what you believe then you can make up your own religion and believe pretty much whatever seems right and good to you and makes you feel like a nice person. Consequently, the next generation didn’t really see any solid reason to remain Catholic.

So they went church shopping, and they found that the other churches had better merchandise. If they were looking for wonderful music, beautiful architecture and fine liturgy the Episcopalians did all that better than the Catholics (who were busy building concrete flying saucers to worship in) If they were looking for gung ho youth groups, happy music and powerful Biblical preaching the Baptists did that better than the Catholics. If they wanted relevant hip hop sermons with big screens, bagels and a latte–the community church sure did that better than the Catholics. If they wanted groovy, soothing music, easy going services and a feel good sermon “contemporary worship stream” at the mainstream Protestant church filled the need. The Catholics were simply doing Protestant badly.

in the meantime, all the things that were really distinctive and unique about the Catholic faith we, in America, put up at a kind of ecclesiastical yard sale. Eucharistic adoration, the real presence of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the altar, the apostolic authority, the papacy, the church fathers, the communion of the saints, images of saints, pilgrimages, the promise of heaven and the pains of hell, the need for confession and the sanctity of marriage….if they weren’t exactly put up at a yard sale, at least they were stashed away in the attic in order to make way for a bland, watered down, wall  to wall carpeting version of Catholicism that was a mix between a Protestant church, Dr Phil and a poorly done nightclub singing act…and the amazing thing is a huge number of American Catholics liked the result. If you don’t believe me try introducing Gregorian chant or something called a hymn to an AmChurch parish.

The third aspect of indifferentism is simply being indifferent. Careless. Complacent. Worldly. Lacking in passion. Lukewarm. Boring. The reason I am a committed Christian and a passionate Catholic today is because I grew up with people who really believed the old, old story of mankind’s fall from grace and God’s saving sacrifice. My parents not only took us to church. They lived a life of sacrifice. My Dad–with five kids and a failing business–gave 15% of his income to the church and we knew it and were proud of his action. We met missionaries who gave their lives to go and live in the jungle with their families to bring the gospel to aboriginal tribes living in fear and darkness. We met refugees from Russia who had been imprisoned for their faith and escaped with nothing but the shirt on their back and had set up missions to smuggle Bibles into communist lands.

This third aspect of indifferentism is the worst of all. It tames Aslan. It waters down the wine. It replaces the fire of the Holy Spirit with one of those tacky fake candles you pay a nickel for and press a switch. Why do they leave? It’s not hard to figure out. They say it themselves–as some folks in the combox have pointed out. They asked their kids why they didn’t believe the Catholic faith and the answer was stark and simple: “If it really is the body and blood of Christ and he is really present–why don’t Catholics–priests included (or should I say priests especially) behave as if it is so?  They have shopped elsewhere and found other Christians who seem to love Jesus Christ more and wish to serve him with their whole lives.

So what do I actually say to the parents who are bereaved at their children’s loss of faith? I say what I say to any Catholic. “Be a saint!” By the grace of God be the most reverent, most radical, most radiant and sold out follower of Jesus Christ. Leave everything and follow him. Sell it all and be a missionary! Even now leave your nets and follow Christ. Do not be afraid. If even only a fraction of Catholics lived as they say they believe the church and the world would be transformed.

 

  • Mary Ann

    Careful Father you might be accused of being old and out of touch. I hear this argument utilized as a dismissal from anyone who expresses what you just so eloquently described! Thank You I feel better knowing that what I deeply believe has been reinforced by a Priest I so greatly admire. God Bless YOU!

  • http://twitter.com/waywardson23 James

    I am seeing another trend among young Catholics who leave the faith, especially those who did grow up understanding doctrine in a parish that was not indifferent.

    The problem is perfectionism, followed by burnout.

    http://ct.dio.org/comment-and-dialogue/a-big-small-world/leave-perfectionism-behind-and-strive-for-perfection.html

    Perfectionism is endemic to American culture and the Catholic Church is no exception. Many times these people who are perfectionistic are praised for their “zeal”, when really, what is going on is a psychological disorder.

    These people try and try and try to earn God’s love by following the rules. When they can’t, they burnout and give up. They associate the faith not with love, but with neurosis.

    We don’t want to be “soft” on the kids, so we talk about the “rules” and don’t talk about grace. But when someone is struggling with sin, the answer is not to “try harder” (ahhh, the good old American Protestant work ethic), but to pray harder.

    One thing that the “indifferent” Catholics and the “perfectionist” Catholics have in common is that they have hidden the confessional. Confession is “an encounter with Jesus” as Pope Francis said. Regular confession has helped me discover and work past the issues in my life that were causing me to sin.

    • Jose Tomas

      Yes, Pelagianism is alive and well. The most prevalent heresy today, right and left, in and out of the Church.

    • Donald Watkins Jr

      If people are being catechized into the faith as just rule followers, then that’s wrong too. The ultimate goal of Catholic Church catechesis is establishing a covenant between the believer and our God where we become so closely bonded and intertwined to our Savior that we can’t possibly imagine being separated for the pain it would cause between ourselves and God, very much like a marriage. Christ is the groom and the Church is his bride. Life in Christ set us free from the guilt and shame of sin, so why wouldn’t people of all ages want that for themselves?

    • Dymphna

      I was raised with the weak catechism of the 70s and left the Church for 10 years. I reverted and educated myself about doctrine and church teaching. I was so excited that the Church that seemed to disappear when I was around 7, was back.

      Now, I am totally burned out. Our priest reads from the CCC during his sermons. (Not exclusively, but it is “all doctrine, all the time”.) When he’s not talking about doctrine, he is telling us who we can’t vote for. (Ok, he doesn’t name names, but we’re not that stupid.)

      When he highlights something from the bulletin at the end of Mass, it is never about doing something for the poor–always about something we should be going to, attending, or doing–to me the implication is that if you were really holy, you’d be there.

      I feel like I am suddenly a “bad Catholic”. If it weren’t a mortal sin to miss Mass, I would definitely take a “sabbatical.”

      There are precious few spiritually balanced priests out there. Both extremes are killing the church.

  • Uncle Miltie

    Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

    Thank you, father!

  • hows_the_boy

    Father, I am considering sending my kids to a public school rather than the local “Catholic” school because if the “Catholic” school turns them away from the Faith,my witness is weakened (“Dad says Catholicism is this, but Catholic school teaches the opposite…so Dad is wrong”), but of the pagan public school teaches against Catholicism, my witness is stronger.

    Do I err? I have seen their “religion” syllabus. It is chilling.

    • David Zelenka

      I was recently at a morning mass where the Catholic School children attend. The priest ended the homily like this: “…and if you’re good enough then one day you will be in heaven with Jesus.” I almost cried. Ouch. I had been thinking to myself, “Well, maybe I should send my kids to Catholic school.” That homily instantly changed my mind. I know it was just one homily. And I expect that he really didn’t mean it, but that’s what came out. I felt bad, because none of us will ever be “good enough.” It’s only through the blood of Jesus that we will be good enough, because he was the best.

    • Regina

      Home school your kid way easier to pass on the faith. Better education to. Personal experience

    • recentgrad

      I’m 22. Just out of Catholic college (a real Catholic school), an all-girls high school, and five years of Catholic elementary/middle school. I’ve two younger siblings going through what I just survived.

      No matter where you’re kids go, Catholic or public, the syllabus is going to be chilling. The difference between the Catholic school/public school education is with the student body. Grant you, this’ll change depending on your area, but the students at the Catholic school are less likely to be a negative influence because they are at least lukewarm cultural Catholics.

      Honestly, everything I know and love about my faith I learned at home growing up. Same for all of my Catholic friends. So don’t worry about the “Dad says/School says.” You assume the school’s going to be a more effective teacher than you,which is HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY unlikely. I argued all the time against half-assed, half-hearted, and half-brained religion teachers, and witnessed plenty against them. What goes on at home is far more important, whether they go to public or private.

      Besides, if the public schools had the decency to be pagan, there would be a modicum of truth in their teachings. Instead, they are modernist/post-modernist, which is infinitely worse.

      Just, don’t homeschool. I’ve seen homeschool kids–they grow up Catholic and are super passionate about it. And then they hit the real world and find out how different everyone else is. Then they do one of two things: they either give up on themselves/their faith or they give up on the world. At least when a kid attends school (public or private), the real world isn’t a surprise :D
      God bless! And good luck.

      • Rebecca Fuentes

        You are pushing a common fallacy about homeschooled students. While it is certainly possible to raise a child with no idea of the “outside world”, I know many Catholic (and other Christian denomination) homeschool graduates who had gone to college, graduated and are now homeschooling their children. Their faith had a strong formation on both the spiritual and intellectual sides. They knew what was in the outside world as much as the private or public school grads (there is a limit to what any 18-yr-old knows about the world), but they choose not to be of it. To counsel against homeschooling after telling us how “chilling” the public and private school options are (And in some areas, private schools just don’t exist–some people here homeschool because even the nearest public school is over an hour away), is irresponsible.

        • recentgrad

          I think the big difference will always be the parents–public school, private school, or homeschool. It always has and always will come down to the parents. If they fail, it doesn’t matter how amazing the education was–and vice versa, great parents can make a huge difference despite bad teachers.

          As for the homeschooled people you know, I’m glad they are so well adjusted. I have several close friends, all from college, who were homeschooled, but they lack some serious understanding of the world and even the best-adjusted ones didn’t have the interpersonal skills and knowledge that a non-homeschooled kid has. I love them dearly, but by and large they didn’t know how to deal with modern culture and people in general.

          More importantly, you can’t help change Catholic education if you ignore it. By leaving it alone, you allow it to keep being a problem.

          • Rebecca Fuentes

            Our area is very rural–many students are an hour from the nearest public school. The nearest Catholic school is too far to be an option, though we were happy to donate to start-up costs when one of the larger parishes in the diocese started a new one. (It was the third one in the diocese–very exciting!) It is frustrating to have all homeschooling families dismissed in one sweeping generalization when, just like public and private school families, there is great variety. I taught public school for 9 years. There are awesome faithful families whose children go to public school, though I would dis-recommend my last district for both academic and cultural reasons. Children do not need to experience bullying, inconsistently applied discipline, or condescending attitudes from teachers to be prepared for the world. They need to be able to think critically, analyze what they hear and read, express their opinions in coherent, sensible ways, know enough about their faith to defend her teachings (in a coherent, sensible way), and have enough confidence in their faith to know they can find answers to the tough questions if they go look. Parents need to educate themselves on the Catholic faith because students are not going to get 2000+ years of history and theology in one hour a week, 30 weeks a year CCD classes. That stands if they choose, home, public, private, or charter schools.

      • http://twitter.com/waywardson23 James

        The other problem is that many homeschooling parents don’t know as much as they think they do. They may think they are training their children in the faith, but are really giving them a misrepresentation that collapses when they get into the real world.

        Second, even if they do get the faith part right, if homeschooling is for religious reasons and homeschooling leaves them ill prepared for the “real world”, then they will logically conclude that religion leaves them ill prepared for the real world. They will view faith as irrelevant, if not harmful, and give it up.

    • Teresa

      Or you can homeschool. I did for years and I can tell you it was by far the greatest sacrifice I ever made and the best decision. You will have to make a huge sacrifice (we had to move, give up a second car, and truly struggle financially) but looking back on grown kids–I wouldn’t change that decision for the world.

    • ponerology

      Bishop Fulton Sheen told Catholic parents to avoid sending their children to Catholic schools because they would run a terrible risk of losing the Faith; and that was in the 1960s. (Home schooling is a good idea.)

  • smitty

    Preach it pastor! You certainly have challenged me and I need to get more serious about really living my faith.

  • jasonbmiller

    Mary Ann, the response when a person under 40 brings these issues up is also humorous – “why do you kids want to change things back to the way they were before? You don’t know what it was like!” The irony of course is those who would accuse Father of being old and out of touch are the ones that are actually old and out of touch. Whenever I here one of these folks about modernizing the liturgy, it usually means awful 70s folk rock. One can’t go on throwing the words “old and out of touch” – eventually they will come back and haunt the previous generation. Payback is a…well, you know :) Great article Father.

    • Greg B

      “The irony of course is those who would accuse Father of being old and
      out of touch are the ones that are actually old and out of touch.”

      Cha-ching! :-)

  • RadTrad

    Just as the architects of Vatican II wanted. Starting with Dei Verbum and ending with
    Nostra Aetate, Vatican II pretty much destroyed the Roman Catholic Church. Interesting observation: Notice that the terror weapon of the Nazis was the V-2 rocket, and the conclave that finished off the RCC was nicknamed V-II.

    - RadTrad and proud of it.

    • http://twitter.com/waywardson23 James

      If you believe that the Holy Spirit no longer attends ecumenical councils or papal conclaves, that makes you Orthodox, not orthodox.

    • athelstane

      It’s undoubtedly true that some periti, and even a few bishops, entered the Council with radical agendas. And that in some cases they may have been able to shape conciliar texts in ambiguous ways that they could (and did) take advantage of to stage their revolution in 1965-1973.

      But I think most bishops had genuinely good intentions for reform of the Church, and – had they been given a vision of the future at the time – would have been dismayed at the results.

      I do think there are a number of problematic sections in the Council documents, ones that are open to reform (as often happens with non-dogmatic conciliar canons). But the real damage was done because a virtual council, built up by certain elites, took the place of the real one in the minds of most Catholics in those years.

  • Hal

    “…be the most reverent, most radical, most radiant and sold out follower of Jesus Christ.”

    Good advice generally, but not specific to handle the situation where one’s son or daughter is a reverent, radical, radiant and sold out Baptist. The child will sadly shake his or her head at mom and dad’s clear, heartfelt devotion to the “wrong” church. Being devout is not, itself, convincing, I think.

    • Teresa

      If your child is a reverent, radical, radiant and sold out Baptist I would REJOICE!! They have the right spirit, in time, and with lots of parent’s prayers, they will return to the truth. Have faith God will guide them back. If I were you I would show them how proud you are in their love for God!! Support them in their faith journey and be joyous!! Catholics can have miraculous confidence that if their children love the Lord, He will never forsake them. Your child hasn’t forsaken God, they have only gone towards Him in the wrong direction. God has a wonderful way of navigating His children. Rejoice and pray and be at peace.

  • D. Morgan

    well said, Father. From your pen to the eyes of millions of Catholics across the country. I would love to see this as the Homily in every parish in the U.S. this week.

  • bj

    you have no idea how many days-years, really- that I’ve wondered, why I can’t just be “indifferent”.

  • CRS

    Amen! Now to forward this to my parish priest who missed the opportunity to preach about life issues and marriage – and the sins to avoid – on Mother’s Day….

  • samuel crow

    I firmly believe the 60s 2as the time of evil being loosed in the world. The total goal of this evil is to destroy God’s Church and humanity. We must fight and debate those who comprmise the Church. We must demand conformity and not listen to those who want homosexual priests or women Priests because we need to be modern. Believe me, the Church will cease to exist. For those issuesare political issues AND not Divine ones.

    Sam

  • Sarah in WA

    A commenter under tag “A Mom” on the original blog post asked what you
    can do to help wayward kids come back to faith. I tried to reply directly to that, but
    comments on that blog entry are closed.

    I’m only 28, so I do not have a wealth of experience dealing with my own wayward children. (I have a 3 year old, and a 4 month old baby.) But, I am a cradle Catholic who married another cradle Catholic, and we still practice. We are an endangered species: Millennial Catholics who grew up, both went to college (engineering school), but *didn’t* leave the Church. I would like to give some personal insights as to why we DIDN’T leave.

    In my estimation, there are three entrances to Catholic faith: the cultural door, the intellectual door, and the spiritual door. Some people find personal faith by simple adoption of the moral norms and practices of a faithful community. Some people encounter God with their minds, seeing that He is the inner logic and origin of all creation, and that He also has a moral order. Some people find their faith through a spiritual experience, and recognize that He is the Love that gives meaning to life.

    It would be wonderful if all three doors (cultural, intellectual,
    spiritual) were open for each individual. In my personal opinion, some
    of these doors appear “CLOSED FOR MAINTENANCE.” To me, it seems the
    cultural door is currently closed for young Americans. Mainstream society has
    departed from public practice of Christian virtues, and the Church is
    also having a cultural identity crisis. For me personally, the thing
    that should have been an intellectual door (religious education /
    catechesis) did not immediately lead anywhere meaningful. Buddy Jesus is
    an artificial construct. It was not compelling.

    The way I
    entered faith was through the spiritual door. I encountered the comfort
    of the Holy Spirit in my heart during adolescence when I was going
    through some deep confusion and trying to ward off depression. I
    subsequently experienced the same God in Adoration, as I encountered
    Christ presence in the Eucharist. These experiences were not something I
    could brush off or deny. They eventually motivated questions,
    searching, study, and eventually, a conscious decision to participate in
    the community life of the local Catholic parish.

    I wouldn’t
    hold my personal experience up as a “one size fits all.” But, I have met
    other young people who also entered faith through the spiritual door. I
    almost never meet young American Catholics who are still practicing
    their faith for cultural reasons (reasons like, this is the faith of my
    parents & “my people”), or because they felt inspired by something a
    religious ed teacher said.

    As a parent, I think one of the most important things you can do is recognize that your kids may not be able to enter the Catholic faith through the same door you may have entered.

    As a parent, what can you do to help your kids find a door?

    First, always pray. Ask for the light of wisdom, that you can
    help guide each child to a door they can enter. Ask Our Mother Mary to
    be your companion in prayer. The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary are a
    wonderful spiritual gift for finding the light of wisdom. Remember, Our Lady is a mother, and she had to watch her only Son being killed by the darkness and evil of the world. She knows this pain. She will comfort you if you have to endure the pain of watching your child become confused or harmed by the world’s darkness. She also knows the joy of His triumph and resurrection. Pray that you may share in her joy.

    Next, try to expose your children to God’s authentic Love. We all deeply need to be loved, and to *know* that we are loved. Help make love real for your children. My parents did this for me even when I rebelled and fought against them. It took me years to recognize what had happened, and feel grateful for their perseverance in loving me.

    Most importantly, you should never despair. If your children are baptized, they have received the gift of the Spirit. You can try to lead them to spiritual practices such as Adoration. You can try to create an environment conducive to prayer in your home. Pray together if you can. And, always pray for your children. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, God does listen.

    • faithtoo

      well written!

      • Catholic christian

        Ditto the last two comments

    • Therese Jacobs

      I love this insight. Thank you!

    • Fred

      I am sure you will try hard. However, my experience is that secular influences have gotten stronger over the years, and the Catholic Church is going to war with a pea-shooter, while the world is using atomic weapons.

      • Sarah in WA

        I don’t disagree with your characterization of the pea shooter vs. atomic weapons. We are at war and things look very bad right now, don’t they? But, Mt 26:52 comes to mind. We must trust what Jesus says, and fight our battles on God’s terms, not the world’s terms.

        Humble prayer is a powerful weapon. Arm yourself and your kids with it. We have allies in heaven who are much stronger than us, and also stronger than our enemies. Pray to St. Michael the Archangel, that he would protect your family. Remember that St. Michael drove Satan himself out of Heaven. He is a strong friend in the war against evil.

      • WSquared

        I gotta say, Fred: if the Sacraments conform the Church to Christ, how is it that we’re going to war with a pea shooter?

        Sarah’s got a point about fighting our battles on God’s terms, not the world’s terms: seen that way, both the terrain and the weapons look different. I guess that’s part of the task of evangelization: not just communicating that we’re in a war, but knowing the terrain and the weapons, and that Christ has already won.

  • Long-Skirts

    A
    CHILD
    OF THE
    SIXTIES
    (or”fool me once, shame on
    you”)

    Daily Mass
    In uniformed
    plaid

    Then
    suddenly
    Adults went
    mad

    Priests
    danced round
    Nuns turned
    hip

    Fathers,
    mothers
    All jumped
    ship

    Michael
    rowed
    His boat
    ashore

    Through
    the
    Sanctuary
    Door

    Simoned-
    sermons
    Garfunked
    too

    Jesus
    loves
    you
    Coo-ka-choo

    Jesus Christ Superstar
    God is dead
    So who You
    are?

    Mourning
    pills
    Eat the
    Bread

    Grace
    Slicked-souls
    Will feed
    your head

    All were
    Virgins
    Female
    Ghost

    Sol -i -
    tary
    Feminist
    boast

    Tell what’s
    happening
    What’s the
    buzz

    Bishops do
    What
    never
    was

    But one
    Bishop
    Stood up
    straight

    Great
    man-Mitred
    Gainst the
    gate

    Great
    man-Mitred
    Took the
    Cross

    Plugged the
    hole
    To stop
    Priest loss

    And to this
    day
    Green
    fields, no dream

    From
    Catholic families
    Vocations
    stream

    Along
    the
    River banks
    they line

    Rosaries
    For
    Tibre,
    Rhine

    We believe
    God,
    Virgin,
    Creed

    If this flow
    continues
    Your waters
    will bleed

    But not with
    Christ’s
    Most
    Precious Blood…

    A
    mitred-muck
    Of
    sin-scabbed mud!

  • Maria

    Well, yes and no, =Father. A lot of what you list certainly has happened, but they are externals, and a strong faith can weather all that and more. The fundamental problem, which you get at in the last paragraph, is grace. There has been a great deal of sin in the past 100 years, and the bank account of grace ran quite low. I know Christ’s grace is limitless, but he doesn’t force it on anyone, and we release it by prayer, sacraments, virtuous living. When those baptized Catholics, from Hitler to me, live poorly, we make it harder for others to hear and live the gospel. Most of what you describe, bad catechism, sloppy liturgy, etc, are symptoms of universal sin. Why did I persist in the faith despite bad catechism, ugly architecture, depraved culture, indifference, etc., while my siblings fell around me? Grace, Mercy, Grace. That’s all. That’s everything. So as you say, let’s be saints, and the rest will take care of itself.

  • Donna G

    “If it really is the body and blood of Christ and he is really
    present–why don’t Catholics–priests included (or should I say priests
    especially) behave as if it is so? ”

    Exactly. That sounds like Mass at my parish, a recipe for indifference if ever there was one. I leave feeling as if I haven’t quite been to Mass but to a semi-Catholic, bland community singalong. I can understand that for some people it would be a short step from that to church shopping for a better product. We need to return to our Catholicity and act as if we actually believe in it. Something as simple as the way we receive Communion might help.

    • Thomas Gallagher

      Bravo, Donna G.!! Lex orandi, lex credendi–the rule we follow when we pray becomes the rule or measure of what we believe. Not long ago I met the sister of an old buddy from my Catholic high school days. She and her husband go to a Lutheran church now, in part because as she alleges “it’s just like the Catholic Mass.” No, sweety, it’s not. In our zeal to make the Mass look like Lutheran worship, we’ve watered down not merely the distinctiveness of our liturgical worship, but the distinctiveness of our beliefs. Let me hasten to say that, unlike the Traditionalists, I do not blame this on Vatican II. The problem lies in the way in which so many bishops and trendy priests chose to implement the Council’s reforms in the 70s and 80s. What a dreadful time, especially in the USA.

      • athelstane

        “In our zeal to make the Mass look like Lutheran worship, we’ve watered down not merely the distinctiveness of our liturgical worship, but the distinctiveness of our beliefs.”

        Actually, given some of what I’ve seen, that may not be entirely fair to (some) Lutherans. I’ve been to LCMS parishes with solid hymnody, good preaching, and – wait for it – celebration ad orientem and a communion rail.

        What we ended up with is, too often, a kind of low rent liberal Protestant service, and the lukewarm indifferentism that goes along with it.

  • Julia

    Being someone of the lost generation, I can definitely say that the ‘it’s not about religion it’s about faith’ attitude was prevalent as I grew up. Religious Ed was boring, and I stopped going in high school. My brother didn’t even make it as far as confirmation, and now considers himself an atheist. We were both cradle Catholics, of good, church involved parents. It was college that saved me. I got involved in the Newman Center, and had some amazingly Catholic roommates. Not everyone has that opportunity. It’s up to our generation, those of us that made it through this period of lost faith, to show the next generation the way. We need to teach them what we learned through much difficulty.

    • Catholic Chtistian

      Yeah Newman Club

  • Johannes de Silentio

    That was a beautiful and inspiring final paragraph. Thank you, good Father.

  • Agusnar

    This issue start with the erroneous interpretation of EENS (extra eccelsia nulla salus) by many of us. Some says that EENS is not valid anymore. I am Indonesian almost 55 and never heard our priests preach this EENS in an convincing manner. Why should I be Catholic when I can be saved if I am not?. I learn EENS from social forum, not from the pulpits. We need to revive this EENS more to our kids..GBU

  • Silvia Aldredge

    I’m 43 and have only just come to understand how to use the Breviary. So much for Catholic Catechism in the ’70′s! That the daily, genuinely holistic prayers of the Church are not taught and not used (generally) is certainly a source of this problem. I hope to spend the next few months making a habit of this practice and hopefully, getting my children to do so too. When and why did we decide this isn’t absolutely necessary!! Oh, plus, its lovely.

  • douglas kraeger

    When someone proposes to
    us an idea concerning something they believe God wants everyone to believe, we
    have only two choices:

    1. Listen
    attentively and show that we truly want to believe everything God wants
    everyone to believe by honestly asking God and the other person for any
    evidence that God wants us and everyone else to believe this idea, to come to
    accept this “faith” and reject anything contrary to it.

    2. Show that we do not really care if God wants
    us to believe this idea or any other idea, show that we are too concerned with
    other (worldly) concerns and that we do not truly love the whole truth
    (whatever that is) that God is
    revealing for us to believe.

    There is no middle ground. We either choose to turn to God and whatever
    He wills, or we choose to turn our backs on God and tell Him (explicitly or out
    of habit implicitly without thinking), “You may want me to believe this idea,
    but I do not give a darn what you want. You can go jump in the lake for all I
    care.”

    My suggestion is that many parents have failed to demonstrate that they really wanted to believe everything God wants everyonr to believe (whatever that is) and therefore the parents did not teach by example how to truly love the whole truth so that they may be saved (2Thessalonians 2;10). TO CORRECT THIS: Parents need to ask themselves if they really want to work to believe everything God wants everyone to believe, or they are just too busy (it is not really important what God wants). Then the parents can ask their children: Should they want to believe everything God wants everyone to believe (whatever that is)? Next, will they help you by asking you questions that you do not know the answer to so you can find the answer, leearn, and then share the answer with them and hopefully everyone will be led by God’s answers to the one faith He must will everyone to come to. (God is infinite truth and He wills to share Himself completely with everyone (share all truth) and therefore we will all come to the one faith eventually (either in heaven or hell) the end difference will depend on whether we begin today to sincerely, honestly work to believe whatever God wants everyone to believe and therefore “earn” an “E” for effort, by God’s grace.
    Being truly Catholic is morte than believing what the Church tells us to believe (the devils believe all of that) it is loving the (whole) truth and this means wanting to know all of it and wanting others to love it also.

  • Teresa Beem

    I talk to a LOT of kids raised in Christian homes and what I have found is something slightly more pointed. (Not to take away, but to add to your observation.) Over and over and over I hear the same theme: Religion didn’t make a difference in their parent’s lives. Their Christian parents divorced like non-christian parents, their parents had just as many sins. Kids saw no power in religion to change Christians. So they quit believing. What’s the point of giving your life over to a God who let’s you rot in your sins? (That is my translation of their words for they say something like, “Religion doesn’t work.”)

    If you want your children to remain Catholic, become a saint. Don’t blame the church or the teachers or the priest. Blame yourself and your divorce, your unloving attitude, your failure to pray and to sacrifice for others. The church isn’t at fault, you are. Nothing will keep a kid a Catholic better than having a Catholic parent who is thrilled to be alive, thankful, cheerful, loving. Nothing will keep a kid a Catholic better than seeing a parent struggle, and sacrifice and give for them and for others. THAT is what works. Be a saint.

    • bj

      it doesn’t always work. my kids were appalled by 2 priests who were consecrating the eucharist on Sunday AND yet, convicted (not just accused-convicted) of pedophilia. we then moved to a different parish about the time that they received a new priest who is annoyed by almost every ministry that someone wants to start in our church. As hard as we’ve tried to teach them the Catholic faith. what they saw from the church elders, convinced them that the faith is a sham, and that my wife and I were kind of silly for being so passionate about it. They never turned their backs on their belief in God, just on the Catholic Faith. With the idea that even the Catholic Church doesn’t really believe what it’s teaching.

      So maybe that worked for you because, the priests you had were at least adequate. But in my case, I’m stuck with what I’ve got unless I pick up and move. These 3 priests have been the only priests that my kids have had a close relationship to in their entire lives. And they have heard the Bishop say when he visits, “You are blessed here to have a GREAT priest.”

      nothing is more frustrating to me than the thought of how much time and effort I put into instructing my kids in the faith. Reading bible stories, daily mass, go to confession as a family, praying together not just at the supper table but at bed time and for people in need at special times. Now all of what I did is being put to use, one at a methodist church and one at a non-denom church.

    • WSquared

      Agreed. I think kids need to know early on that the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a club for saints, starting with ourselves.

      “Blame yourself and your divorce, your unloving attitude, your failure to pray and to sacrifice for others.”

      I would add one more: blame the times you didn’t go to Confession frequently, and the times you behaved as though you have “nothing to Confess.” That’s part of having a loving attitude; it’s also a part of believing in the Real Presence.

  • 11onmyown

    Get rid of the altar girls, Eucharistic ministers giving blessings, protestant hymns in the hymnals, shorts and halter tops, and homilies that don’t mean squat. Get rid of the socializing in the pews before and after Mass, touchy-feeling CCD books, and start preaching some real CCC from the ambo. People are ignorant and don’t know their faith and need to hear it. Or things will never change.

  • Katie

    Listening with the kids, for the unpteenth time, to Focus on the Family’s cd’s of the Chronicles of Narnia – just left the Dufflepods where the magician says to Lucy “It isn’t as if He’s a TAME Lion.” Thank you!

  • ArachneC

    I came here to see if this person actually understood what made me leave the catholic church, and I’m sorely disappointed.

    I didn’t leave because people weren’t holy enough. I didn’t leave because catholics have a Norvus Ordo mass. I didn’t leave because of how church people acted. That sounds really shallow and I don’t know who you know, but I wonder if you are really listening to ex-catholics or are just trying to interpret what they tell you to suit your ideas about your faith.

    My parents were pre-vatican 2 Catholics. They were, and still are extremely strict about their faith. I grew up going to latin tridentine mass, saying the rosary every day with my family, celebrating the holy days and saints feast days. We had priests over for dinner and went to the rectory to make them dinners sometimes. And yes, for the first 23 years of my life, I was convinced that I was right, that our faith was the one etc. What you are trying to say is that people leave the faith because parents and their kids aren’t catholic “enough”. Thats pretty insulting.
    My whole family is still catholic as are most of the people I know. It was more comfortable to stay.

    I left. And before I did I wasn’t trying to leave, I was trying to stay. But my integrity is important to me, and I can’t pretend to be something I am not.

  • Zimic

    To know where the Church is you have to read the writings of the Holy Father.
    Which most of them aren’t that hard to read. You want to walk with the Church.
    Blessed john Paul Ii left us some beautiful writings and two that I would recommend is “Dominicae Cenae” and “Ecclesia De Eucharistia”. John Paul II says that if we would do ADORATION we could change the world.

    God Bless and have a great day

  • athelstane

    “…and the amazing thing is a huge number of American Catholics liked the result.”

    Or at least those generations did. But then this was the age that also liked bell bottoms, Captain & Tenille, and brushed concrete brutalism. I suspect that at first it was simply peer pressure to conform (and perhaps, we should consider, a reaction to the often sterile conformism of pre-conciliar Catholicism); later on, many were formed to like it, were *invested* in liking it. And still do.

    But it’s obviously not the same kind of lodestar to Gen X and (especially) Gen Y. The results are on display for all to see. And so the progressives of that age are forced to seek comfortable explanations: It’s all because of Humanae Vitae and all those judgmental sexual teachings, and the sex scandals (it is always the sex scandals) and anyway, today’s youth are not “joiners.” Well: Whatever gets you through the night.

    And they’ll lament the scarcity of (young) people in the pews, the closed churches and schools, but never reflect that this is just the sort of people they raised these children to be: indifferent, therapeutic. It’s easier to sleep in on Sunday mornings.

    One of your best posts, Father.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    My brothers have both left the church, though my sister and I are still devout. My younger brother drifted away as soon as he left home. He married a woman we all like very much, but she doesn’t go to any church or practice any faith, so their children are unbaptized and uncatechized. My older brother left after a short, disastrous marriage to a fellow Catholic. They are now divorced and she has initiated an annulment. From his perspective, he did everything “right” and things still went wrong, so why keep trying? Everyone leaves for different reasons. My grown step-daughter left because it was easier to not go to church than to go, and she didn’t like facing the truth that her lifestyle would not be approved of. Time and time again, though, I talk to people who have converted or come back to the faith, and they have two answers for that: either a Catholic reached out to them in a time of need and they really saw the love that had always been preached in action, or the Eucharist.
    Often, it’s both.

    • Donald Watkins Jr

      Amen. The call to Evangelization in the Catholic Church needs to be based upon the Eucharistic Christ, who calls all of us into his new and everlasting covenant, which is like a close bond of marriage. We are being good disciples and doing the work of the Lord when we use the tools that Jesus gave us: Love and Truth, and we have to use those two tools closely following the example of Jesus.

  • Michael Stephens

    Father made some excellent points the other day on the SonRise Morninig show about our children who have left the faith for some other denomination. However, what if our kids have left the faith for nothing? They don’t practice anything. They still identify as Christian but do not practice in any Christian denomination. How do we reach them? I also have an adult child who attends weekly Mass but does NOT receive Communion. What about that?

  • Kimberly Gill

    Oh so wonderful! Thank you!

  • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    Fr Ed Broom’s posted a relevant post today on Catholic Exchange:
    http://catholicexchange.com/holiness-now/

  • Catholic christian

    I think some of what you say is really true. But there is another reason. We are not good at living out the Gospel message and Catholic Social teaching especially. Just heard a wonderful talk by Jack Jezrel of Just Faith Ministries. He talks about us doing a great job at faith formation, worship, both by focus and budget(His term-gathering) but a poorer job at outreach, charity and justice, and usually with a much less significant budget.(his term-sending) We need to be formed and nourished in our faith but go beyond ourselves to be out in the world and do the mission Christ asked of us. He believes all people especially youth would be drawn to the Church by more outreach both in participation and allocation of budget. If we want to do Christ’s mission we need to be more balanced in gathering and sending. He doesn’t attribute this to Catholics alone but to all Christian religions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/captainorso Ronald Orso

    Wow, Father- another OUTSTANDING blog. Thank you!

  • Steve Kellmeyer

    For a book that explains exactly how the Catholic schools got into the shape they are in today:
    https://gracesreceived.com/store/bridegroompress/books/designed-to-fail-catholic-education-in-america

  • ponerology

    No mention of the true Mass? Without it, there are no graces. Without graces there is a slim to no chance of “By the grace of God be the most reverent, most radical, most radiant and sold out follower of Jesus Christ”, because it all still leaves one sitting in a new protestant sect pew.

  • David Egan

    If you raise your kids the right way and encourage them to be inquisitive skeptical thinkers, there is no way they’ll stay catholic (or with any religion). If your kids are still part of a religion by the time they can drive, you’ve failed.

  • http://catholicism.org/author/bam Brother André Marie, M.I.C.M.

    Thank you, Father. Indifferentism (of the first, dogmatic, sort you mentioned) was condemned as a heresy by Pope Gregory XVI in Mirari Vos (#13): http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Greg16/g16mirar.htm . But how many Catholics know of this?

    Your vigorous assertion of the dangers of indifferentism are worthy of your sacrament. Please keep it up!

  • http://www.frmartinfox.blogspot.com/ Fr. Martin Fox

    Some folks have responded by saying, if it’s about bad catechesis, then how do you explain children leaving the Faith when we do it ourselves, we hit it hard, etc.?

    Remember, people walked away from our Lord himself! Did he fail at catechesis? At love? At holiness? In what way does the decision of so many to reject our Lord in the flesh reflect on his “failure”?

    Father L. is right in diagnosing many problems that worsen the problem. He’s dead-on that when you tell people, over and over, that what matters is being nice, then you can be nice elsewhere. When you tell people, over and over, that the Catholic Faith has no special claim on the truth…people might as well shop around.

    He’s exactly right.

    That said, none of that means that every time family members reject the Faith, it’s someones fault.

    The Lord told us this would happen.

  • Irksome1

    Something about this line of thinking doesn’t seem right. For instance, take Italy, or Spain where many of Father Longnecker’s problems don’t seem to be a significant issue and yet just as many young folks, if not more, fall away. How to account for this?

  • jbg

    Excellent article Father as was your previous one on the same topic I am glad our clergy (well some of them) are starting preach the truth. Hard truth in this day and age but Truth is polarizing anyway. Along with defending our faith we need to proclaim the Truth of the Catholic Church. All we hear is ‘don’t offend’…all we need to do is ‘live’ our faith. Jesus was not worrying about offending when he spoke in the synagogue. Peter converted 3,000 with words guided by the Holy Spirit.

  • Michael

    Interesting title. Maybe there’s a simpler point getting missed here?

    If you are Catholic, and you have your children baptised, they are Catholic.

    It’s objective. Otherwise, are you going to spend your whole time worrying when you or they are “Catholic enough?”

    Reminds me of when I was about to be received into full communion with the Church. I was talking to a priest, the chaplain at my college. He said “Hmmmm. Yes, maybe you’ve been touched by God”.

    I felt like shouting: Yes, I was baptised two years ago (by the Anglicans, in the first year of my studies). That’s what Baptism *is*, isn’t it?!

    If there’s no “is” then I don’t care what “should be”…

  • Catholic4Now

    As a young adults who left, came back and may leave again, it’s simply because being a good Catholic is easy! Being a good evangelical, it’s hard!!! Being a good Catholic means going to a 45 – 60 minute Mass each week, going to confession 15 minutes each year or each month, going to Euchrastic Adoration once month, etc. Being a good Catholic means you go to services, you live a decent life, but none that is too Holy. Being Catholic means you can still listen to unholy music, buy lottery tickets, drink alcohol….being a good Catholic means the only time you are Holy is in a Catholic Church.
    Being a good Evangelical takes hard work! You have to weekly service, 1 hr. 30. to 2 hours, then bible study, then prayer group, then you have to read your bible daily, spend time in prayer, etc. Being a good Evangelical, means you have to be not just decent, but Holy. You have to be a good witness – No drinking, no smoking, no lottery tickets, Christian music, no PG-13 movies.
    To be a good Catholic, you go through the motions, whereas to be a good Evangelical you have to show you have changed.

  • Lu

    Take a look at the “Growing In Love” series at motherswatch.net. This sexualized catechetical series was meant to be a wedge in natural development of our youth in order to destroy Catholic principles. U S bishop’s schools are not a safe place for youth. Their innocence is stolen. Natural blush and shame is removed. It’s all a predator’s dream. Why do the People of God financially support these men in black with white collars who are destroying from within by abusing our youth.


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